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Forfeiture Hearings in Hillsborough County, FL

If your property was seized by a law enforcement agency in Hillsborough County, FL, then contact an experienced attorney to help you get the property back. The most important thing to remember is that you should demand an adverse preliminary hearing within 15 days of the seizure.

Call an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case and fighting to get your property back. We have defended cases involving the asset forfeiture of personal property including vehicles (such as car, trucks and motorcycles) and cash and currency.

We are experienced in fighting seizures by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Temple Terrace Police Department, the Plant City Police Department, and the Florida Highway Patrol. 

The procedures for forfeiture hearings when a law enforcement agency in Hillsborough County take person property is governed by Administrative Order No. S-03-11-95-76. The administrative order for forfeiture hearings was signed by the Chief Judge in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, on July 21, 1995. 21st day of July, 1995. The order supersedes Administrative Order S-03-04-11-92-097.


Uniform Procedures for Forfeiture of Personal Property

Florida law established certain procedural requirements under the Contraband Forfeiture Act, Sections 932.701 through Section 932.707, Florida Statutes (1993). Chapter 95-265, Section 4, Laws of Florida, provides that all civil forfeiture cases shall be heard by a circuit court judge in the civil division.

The courts have determined that it is necessary to implement certain procedures in a uniform manner within the courts of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, FL.


Right to Adversarial Preliminary Hearing in Hillsborough County

All law enforcement seizing agencies within Hillsborough County shall notify persons entitled to notice of the seizure and to an adversarial preliminary hearing by written notice in substantially the same format as Attachment “A”.

Law enforcement agencies in Hillsborough County that often seize personal property include the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Temple Terrace Police Department, the Plant City Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol.

The notice of the seizure and to an adverse preliminary hearing SHALL be served on the persons entitled to notice at the time of the seizure or by certified mail, return receipt requested, within 5 working days after seizure of the property.

The law enforcement agency that seized the personal property SHALL serve this notice for all personal property seized pursuant to the provisions of the Contraband Forfeiture Act regardless of means of seizure, including but not limited to, seizure effected under warrant.


Notice of Adversarial Preliminary Hearing in Hillsborough County, FL

If a person entitled to notice desires an adversarial preliminary hearing, a timely request shall be made in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the seizing agency.

The administrative order provides:

If a person entitled to notice timely submits to the seizing agency a request for an adversarial preliminary hearing, the seizing agency shall file the notice of seizure (Attachment “A”) with the Clerk of the Circuit Court (“Clerk”) [in Hillsborough County, FL] so that a case number and division may be assigned.

The administrative order requires that the seizing agency shall then

  1. contact the court to set a hearing date and time,
  2. serve a copy of the notice of hearing on the claimant(s) and provide a copy of the notice to the court, and
  3. file the original notice of hearing with the clerk.

No adversarial preliminary hearing shall be scheduled after the court's entry of any order finding probable cause.


Complaint for Forfeiture in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL

The administrative order provides:

Within 45 days of the seizure of the property, counsel for the seizing agency shall file a complaint styled “In Re: Forfeiture of ___” (followed by a description of the property) and accompanied by a verified supporting affidavit. However, if good cause is shown, the court may extend the time for filing a complaint to 60 days.

Upon the filing of a complaint, if no adversarial preliminary hearing has been held or scheduled, the clerk shall, within 5 working days, forward the file to the court. The seizing agency shall notify the court when the time to respond to the Notice of Seizure has elapsed so that the court may determine probable cause.

The court shall enter an order finding probable cause or no probable cause and forward a copy to counsel for the seizing law enforcement agency and to the claimant(s).


Assignment of Cases and Effective Date

The administrative order for forfeiture hearing provides:

All civil forfeiture cases still pending in Trial Division 2 of the Criminal Justice and Trial Divisions on the effective date of this administrative order shall be transferred to one of the General Civil Divisions of the Circuit Court by the blind rotation system, but the cases shall be distributed equally among the 10 General Civil Divisions.

All civil forfeiture cases filed on or after the effective date of this administrative order shall be assigned to one of the General Civil Divisions of the Circuit Court by the blind rotation system.


ATTACHMENT A

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
FOR HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA
CIVIL DIVISION
 

IN RE: THE FORFEITURE OF:

____________________
CASE NUMBER:
____________________
DIVISION:
NOTICE OF SEIZURE OF PERSONAL PROPERTY
_________________________
(Agency Report Number)

DATE:

TO:
 
This is to advise you that on
 
the

(date of service)
 
seized
 
(law enforcement agency)

(property seized)

for violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Florida Statute, 932.701-707 (1995).

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to request an adversarial preliminary hearing to have a court determine whether probable cause exists to believe the property seized has been or is being used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

The request must be made within fifteen (15) days after receiving this notice.

In order to request such a hearing, you must submit the request in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the seizing agency below. The request must include an address at which the seizing agency may serve you with further papers in this proceeding. The seizing agency will set a hearing with the court and will notify you of the time, date, and place of that hearing.

PLEASE NOTE THAT the post-seizure adversarial hearing is not mandatory and you need not request a hearing to later contest the action taken against the property described herein.
 
Signature of Officer or Attorney
For Seizing Agency

____________________, Esquire
____________________
____________________
(Name and address of attorney for seizing agency)
(Check one of the following)
___ Certificate of Mailing by Certified Mail
___ Hand Delivered, Accepted by ____________________


Finding an Attorney for an Seized Property in Hillsborough County

If your property was seized by a law enforcement agency in Tampa, Hillsborough County, or the surrounding areas throughout Tampa Bay, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. We work hard to get our client's property back to them through a adverse preliminary hearing, which is often the best way to fight for the return of the property.

This article was last updated by on Friday, October 31, 2014.